The cross of lamentation

Good Friday is about Passion and lamentation. The animal or human scapegoat was regarded as symbolically carrying the sins of the tribe; with the idea that, in its death, those sins were purged and the tribe brought back to wholeness. The pattern was precisely what we see at the end of a tragedy

Mothers and fathers flock together at the foot of the cross on Good Friday to lament, lament for Him and for their sons and daughters. That is because he lamented on the cross: ""Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"( Mt.27:46).  

The cross makes everyone feel the God-forsaken tragedy of life. The cross is a book of lamentations, a book of trauma every one creates and reads for oneself. Everyone has a story of a survivor. In the aftermath of trauma, survivors struggle to bear witness to realities that usually lie beyond their mastery. Survivors' testimonies typically reflect a history that is not straightforwardly referential. Their experiences remain beyond their grasp, yet they impose themselves through the repetition compulsion in dreams and in the literature that they produce. The experience of excess inherent in traumatic realities distinguishes these realities from other experiences of suffering or crises. Trauma shatters life; it is caesura in life, a breach in memory and time, and a collapsing of identity shaping worlds, networks, institutions, and assumptions.

Speakers in lamentations tenaciously persist in trying to engage God. They make claims on God, demand attention, and beg for a future. They do this even as God walks away and silently closes the door on them. Hope gives us focus and something to live for. What can be said about the great works of literature of human passion implies the crucifix with clear reminiscences of the Book of Job. Job represented the innocent victim; the figure mirrored in Oedipus or Cordelia, both are implicated in the relationship between actors and subjects, oppressors and victims, existing in mutually dependent or interdependent relationships. This figure of the "suffering servant", the figure of Christ is beyond the Greek tragedy of the hero. In his self-emptying he becomes vulnerable and takes on the tragedy of human existence.  

Christ is not complicit in the suffering of others, but in so far as he identifies with humanity he becomes responsible for suffering. What is unique is that this identification enables him to redeem suffering; perhaps to redeem 'tragedy' itself, coming as it does from the Greek, tragos 'goat'. It is derived from the ancient ritual practice of the 'scapegoat', whereby a goat or some other creature could be sacrificed to restore health to the community. The animal or human scapegoat was regarded as symbolically carrying the sins of the tribe; with the idea that, in its death, those sins were purged and the tribe brought back to wholeness. The pattern this re-enacted was precisely that we see at the end of a tragedy, where a whole community has been cast into shadow by the darkness emanating from the central figure.   

Christ gives no doctrine, a theory about what has happened and will happen to the human soul, but a cry of something that actually takes place in human life. For 'consciousness of sin' is a real event and so are despair and salvation through faith. The event discards religion in so far as we see religion as aligned with a sacrificial order.

The cross destroys the power of Satan as the 'king of this world', meaning the power to unleash violence through the scapegoat mechanism. Christ reveals that our scapegoats are nothing but innocent victims. To be with Christ is to stand with the victim. But the key factor differentiating the sacrifice of Jesus from religious killings is in the nature of love is expressed in terms of self-sacrifice: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

When God himself is understood as love, self-sacrifice, laying down one's life for one's friends, becomes a participation in the very nature of the divinity. Crucified Christ teaches that in the crucifixion, God's true nature is expressed, and the door to eternal life is opened. That door is self-sacrifice, losing our lives in order to be born anew in divine life.

The cross of Christ provides a double absence: a dead body, emptied of its spirit, and then an empty tomb. The body is always in transit, it is always being transferred. It is never there as a commodity that I can lay claim to or possess as mine. This is the ontological scandal announced by the Eucharistic phrase - bodies are never simply there or here. 'This is my body. Take eat. This is my blood, drink.' It is in body we are spiritual, it is in body we give and share, it is in body we love and die for others. It is in the lamentation of love we flock together under the crucifix. Can we implicate God in his crucifixion and passion?

(The writer is editor, Light of Truth)

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